Full paper Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Building the graduate capabilities of students in the Master of Professional Accounting through a skills development approach to assessment (#75)

Josephine Hook 1 , Leanne McCann 1 , Michaela Rankin 1
  1. Monash University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Abstract Content (up to 300 words recommended)

Student achievement of graduate capabilities, beyond discipline-based knowledge, leads to enhanced employability (Oliver, 2013). This paper reports on a coordinated, program-based approach to a project to constructively align teaching, learning and assessment practices (Biggs, 2007) to enhance the graduate capabilities of students in Monash University’s Master of Professional Accounting. The project aligns the curriculum with a number of governing frameworks: the AQF, Monash Graduate Attributes and Threshold Learning Outcomes for Accounting. The curriculum and assessment-mapping phase exposed potential gaps in the skills development of students. These gaps were addressed by positioning core skills development activities strategically throughout the course and challenging lecturers to make changes to their curriculum, including assessment tasks, to ensure skills development is scaffolded and explicit. The outcome is that students follow a pathway through the course where professional skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and communication are learned, practiced and assessed.

This paper shares how the changes made to activities and assessment in a final semester unit in the program have resulted in enhanced student performance, experience and employability. This subject provides students with the opportunity to develop and demonstrate graduate capabilities including written communication, knowledge, research skills and judgment. Assessment redesign for this project is underpinned by pedagogy for sustainability, considered to be a driver of students’ lifelong learning (Boud, 2000; 2007). Assessment takes the form of ‘authentic’ tasks that would be required of recent graduates. The paper presents the project findings, including the creation of criteria-based rubrics (Sadler, 2005), and recommendations for change to learning and teaching across the program for incremental skills development.

The paper provides a model for teaching and learning staff to fully engage students in the curriculum, building student capability through incremental and explicit skill development that can be applied in all disciplines.

Addressing the theme/s of the Conference (up to 200 words recommended)

This paper addresses the sub-theme of 'Assessing, evidencing and evaluating graduate capabilities' in its exploration of a model for a coordinated, integrated, and intentional approach to developing students' graduate capabilities. Graduate capabilities are made explicit in authentic teaching and learning activities, including assessment tasks. Student experience is enhanced as the expectations for demonstrating these capabilities become visible and accessible.

The paper examines the process in which course curriculum is aligned to the skills statements in the various frameworks governing the course. Built into this alignment process is a close relationship to the professional associations, in this case, Accounting. Recognized professional standards are expressed in the ALTC Threshold Learning Outcomes for Accounting and inform assessment criteria. Students become cognizant of their skill development and can articulate and demonstrate their capabilities to potential employers.

Evaluating student results data for a program, such as pass rates, average marks, and student evaluations, identifies opportunities for pedagogical review and renewal, and provides evidence of the impact of a systematic approach. The paper considers this data as a solid contribution to a body of evaluation that includes feedback from the profession on the demonstrable graduate capabilities of our students. 

  1. Biggs, J. (2007). Teaching for quality learning at university: What the student does (3rd ed.) Buckingham, UK: Society for Research into Higher Education and Open University Press.
  2. Boud, D. (2000). Sustainable Assessment: Rethinking Assessment for the Learning Society. Studies in Continuing Education, 22:2, 151–167.
  3. Boud, D. (2007). Reframing assessment as if learning were important. In D. Boud & N. Falchikov (Eds.), Rethinking Assessment in Higher Education: Learning for the longer term London: Routledge, 14-28.
  4. Oliver, B. (2013). Graduate attributes as a focus for institution-wide curriculum renewal: innovations and challenges. Higher Education Research & Development, 32:3, 450-463.
  5. Sadler, D. R. (2005). Interpretations of criteria-based assessment and grading in higher education. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 30:2, 175-194.
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